‘It’s embarrassing’: Experts, politicians weigh in on New York Times article exposing B.C. political cash

Click to play video: 'New York Times report on BC: Canada’s ‘Wild West’ of political cash'
New York Times report on BC: Canada’s ‘Wild West’ of political cash
WATCH: The New York Times is calling out Premier Christy Clark for the money she's paid by the BC Liberal party. As Paul Johnson reports, it's prompting renewed calls for changes to fundraising laws that would apply to all parties – Jan 15, 2017

As the dust settles following Friday’s publication of the New York Times‘ expose of Christy Clark’s annual, political donation-supplied $50,000 stipend, most can agree: this is not a good look for B.C.

“It’s embarrassing,” UBC political science professor Max Cameron said. “The New York Times is saying the emperor has no clothes, and it’s one thing for people here to say it, but it’s another thing when it’s publicized globally.”

When Global News reached out to Clark’s B.C. Liberals, the party said it is “committed to transparency” in fundraising, and that the practice of the premier receiving a stipend, which under B.C. law is perfectly legal, dates back to the 1990s.

READ MORE: B.C. Liberals report donations in ‘real time’

That’s what made the story so fascinating to Dan Levin, the author of the Times story.

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“If this were in Russia or China or the Balkans or some developing-world country, it would just be written off as nepotism or corruption,” Levin said in a phone interview. “But here [in B.C.], because it’s not illegal, it seems to just get a pass.”

Opposition parties were eager to comment, mostly with resignation, and used the opportunity to promote their own ideas surrounding corporate donations.

“It’s not a badge of honour, that’s for sure,” Adam Olsen, Green Party candidate for Saanich North, said when asked about B.C. being referred to as “the Wild West” for political donations in the Times piece.

As of September 2016, the Greens are only one of two provincial parties that does not take donations from businesses or unions. Olsen says the decision has only brought good to the party.

“As a result of that decision, our fundraising has increased dramatically over the past number of months, not only the amount of donations we’re getting from people but the number of individual donors is also increasing,” Olsen said. “So I think it’s a clear sign that British Columbians are looking for real leadership and I think our party is showing that leadership.”

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Your Political Party of B.C. does not take donations from businesses or unions either.

READ MORE: Clark draws fire for taking B.C. Liberal Party stipend above her salary

As for the NDP, Coquitlam-Burke Mountain MLA Jodie Wickens said her party leader John Horgan does not receive a stipend from political donations like Clark does, but that he is reimbursed for “a suit or two” from those funds.

Mainly, Wickens says, the party is focused on changing the rules surrounding corporate donations if and when they assume power after the May 9 election. Until then, she admits the party has no choice but to play by the rules currently in place, meaning they’ll take those donations if they’re offered.

“Right now, the rules are what they are, and we have to play by those rules,” Wickens said. “This election is too important to us, for British Columbians, and we can’t fight with one hand tied behind our back.

“Christy Clark has the power to do the right thing and ban union and corporate donations, and she could do that if she chose to.”

With files from Paul Johnson

NOTE: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the Green party was the only political party in B.C. that does not take donations from businesses or unions.

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